I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the content ecosystem lately. I’ve been considering the entire end-to-end process of organizing, creating, managing, and publishing content for the global marketplace.

Here is a definition of the term ecosystem from WordNet at Princeton University:

  • A system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their physical environment.

Here’s another one that I particularly like from the Massachusetts EOEA:

  • A complex set of natural, interconnected elements on which a habitat’s survival depends directly or indirectly.

With those in mind, here is my definition of the content ecosystem:

  • The complex set of interconnected tasks and activities that result in the production of words, pictures, and sounds published for a global audience.

The interconnected tasks and activities can be grouped into four categories:

Over the next few posts, I will discuss each of the categories of the content ecosystem. Today, I will start with organize.


Before the first character is typed or the first word is spoken, you should consider how you are going to organize your content. Starting with the end in mind will save you a lot of time, expense, and frustration later on. Using a content management system (CMS) is an important consideration for organizing your ecosystem. One of my favorite definitions of a CMS comes from the Enterprise Content Management website in Europe:

  • A CMS is a tool that enables a variety of (centralised) technical and (de-centralised) non technical staff to create, edit, manage and finally publish (in a number of formats) a variety of content (such as text, graphics, video, documents etc), whilst being constrained by a centralised set of rules, process and workflows that ensure coherent, validated electronic content.

If you are planning to reuse your content, you will need a CMS to organize and store the content and metadata. Imagine trying to locate and reuse potentially thousands (even millions) of snippets of content without a tool to organize, categorize, and store them. It would be an impossible task.

Another component of the content ecosystem is the tool that your users employ to create the content. If reuse is an important consideration, selecting an XML editor and having your XML environment developed is a crucial. If you do not intend to reuse your content, you may decide to use other tools for the authoring process, such as MS Word, InDesign, or unstructured FrameMaker.

Planning your workflow, management, and reuse strategy before you begin developing content sets the overall environment for the rest of the ecosystem to follow.

Val Swisher
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